Every time I hear the expression “Ripple effect” of course I think of the lapping rings from a stone tossed in a pond, but honestly? …these days my visual goes almost immediately from there to a quick check of the rippling layers of estrogen-starved skin beneath my kneecaps (summer is coming) and from there to an image of my face poking out from a hole in the sagging trunk of an old tree (á la Pocahontas’s spiritual Granny in the Disney film), spouting occasional words of acquired wisdom from having lived more years than I could possibly have left –but there it is.
Don’t get me wrong, things were good: Bond, James, and I were excited about moving into our apartment and in addition to seeing his clients again in South Africa, I was more than happy to contribute to saving the planet by Eco-living (for another five weeks) at Neot S’madar, in the middle of the Negev. Both for the price of one expensed RT ticket, covered by my BF.
Even so, I was more than ready when I arrived at JFK, to take a “’time out” for a few weeks from all the layers of my life in NYC. Interestingly this time, my gal pals were off on mini adventures too: Pailey took a new job, headquartered in San Francisco that would have her traveling back and forth across the country for extended stays; Karen was off to a couple of trade shows with Tool Man for their longest stint together 24/7 — and Emma was dealing with Mr. Vegas in China by bopping down to Florida for Mets spring training (the girl likes her baseball, football AND opera) Not that any of us were trendsetting, but we were seeing our cups half full; we were happy (good time to leave).
Especially with yet another closing of another Broadway show (this one being touted “A new American classic”). Project work is great but there is that vacuum in-between that can leave a lesser person wondering about the life choices they’ve made. Ok, so I was wondering…
Over dinner with one of the happily-marrieds I had a knee-jerk yearning to talk my wondering, out loud. My leave-date was looming …another 7 weeks outside the country, away from family and friends… I’d realized recently that not one close friend or blood-relative had asked to see my photo albums from last year’s six-month “eat, pray, hummmm.” Soooo, who really cares, besides me, what I’m doing?? And is that ok?
I opened up the conversation with a story about a pair of expensive earrings I spotted in a shop window years ago, that I could no longer afford post divorce and my realization then that “owning those earrings would not make me a better person; wouldn’t change my life… I convinced myself that I could walk away without them, and somewhat stoically, I did.”
“And,” I continued to blabber, “here I am, now, floating off in my own little bubble, traveling overseas again — and it seems like such a selfish act: it’s all for me…my joy, my inspiration.” (my photo albums) “Soooo,” I begged the question, “what’s this travel thing of mine all about??”
They jumped right in, “for starters, we love that you’re living your life the way you want to…!” And then they laughed, “but it’s really about the connections you make to other people, exposure to new thoughts, widening your horizons — and theirs! It changes things. In a good way. The ripple effect.”
I sort-of get that. I’ve certainly left my mark in the weirdest of places — not to mention, in recent years, moving audiences to tears and cheers. And sure, I leave my cell phone on 24/7 to be available to the same loved ones who never asked to see a single one of my photo albums, but still — I had this lingering sense that maybe all this moving about was inappropriate behavior for a financially challenged senior babe who was about to move in with her boyfriend…
And then, no kidding, the very next morning, I woke up to an email from the house manager and the cleaning person from the Guest House we stayed in last summer in South Africa. Unaware that I’d be back in Pretoria shortly, they wrote that their Guest House was closing, their lives would be changing — and they wished I was there to talk to. They just wanted me to know how much I meant to them.
And then, in the very next email, this:
I didn’t forget, Shaz, A deal’s a deal.
You wanted to do it your way, change the world, and have a ball.
And you have.
Ah, it was nothing –
PS — Give yourself some credit, Shaz, see the difference you’ve already made and appreciate the fun you’ve already had, and the ball will never end. Oh yeah, and the best is yet to come…
Bond, James, flew over a week before me, so I checked in my one heavy bag (which they kindly let slide the few pounds it was over the limit), solo, gladly passed through the security check and boarded another airplane going somewhere. It felt routine, taking my seat on a night flight, puffing up my neck pillow, and popping my aspirin-free PMs as I headed for a 6-hour layover in Frankfurt (where I knew I would take the train from the plane to the shopping district downtown, for an authentic schnitzel — and some wifi). And I happily re-boarded later that same day for another overnight flight, across the Equator to the bottom part of Africa. This time, looking forward to catching up with friends.
And that’s where it happened… over lunch in Hartbeespoort with an artist (and his lovely daughter) who we met last summer. Walking through his studio afterwards, Bond, James, and I both fell in love with a piece of his — and purchased our first joint asset: A painting with swirling colors, ripples of earth and sky, but mostly sky. And maybe that’s what attracted us to it; because no matter where we are — New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Palm Beach, China –or Pretoria, South Africa, we’re all connected under the same sky. And all it takes is getting up and flying over, to be there.
Or here. Having lunch with my friends Johann and Sina on their last day working together before handing over the keys to the new owners of the Guest House. Last summer we ventured somewhere we’d never been before… in a way, tossing ourselves (like the stone) randomly in a pond — and the imprint was strong enough to linger. Once again our lives were overlapping, strengthening that connection and creating a shared memory…when four very different people, celebrating all the little ripples that led to this moment, raise their glasses and toast: “to Change.”
NOTE TO SELF: Keep taking pictures…